President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday saying migrant families will no longer be separated at the border. But the order continues spreading the lie that Trump was simply enforcing the law by separating families.
Also absent from Trump’s order is what he plans to do about the 2,342 children that have already been separated from their families. And according to an NBC News report, family detention centers may not be able to house all of the families crossing the border.
Trump’s order says that families will be detained together except in instances where it would be a danger to the child. But it does not overrule a 1993 Supreme Court ruling, in Flores v. Reno, which states that migrant children cannot be detained for more than 20 days. At this time, children may be released without their parents.
Trump also still refused to take the blame for the families that were already separated.
“It is unfortunate that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law,” the order reads.
No federal law existed that dictated families be separated when trying to enter the country illegally. Trump and his own team have said the separation policy would serve as a deterrent.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said just this week. “Not on my watch.”
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III said on Fox News, “hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry.”
In an interview with NPR Chief of Staff John Kelly said, “[Family separation] could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent.”
But Trump’s order makes no mention of what will happen to families when the facilities reach capacity. Per the NBC report:
Family detention centers run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have a current capacity of 3,335 beds, according to the latest federal budget allocations. But on average, 420 parents and kids are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in family groups each day, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by NBC News.
By those numbers, the facilities would be full in just over a week. Whether families would be sent to separate facilities at that point is not clear.
Prior to Trump, entire families would often be released from family detention centers after 20 days. Vox reported:
Since the current family detention facilities — two in Texas created under Obama, and an older one on Pennsylvania — are mostly full, they don’t have a ton of space to detain families anyway.
But with Trump hell-bent on “zero tolerance” — and his strong disdain for “catch and release” — there’s no way of knowing what would happen to families at this point.